Thursday, July 28, 2011

Korean Government Proposes New Solution to China's Cyberwar

Up to 35 million South Korean citizens may have had their personal and financial information stolen today after China launched a coordinated attack on SK Comms, owners of the popular Nate and Cyworld sites. The massive assault is the latest and largest conducted by the belligerent emerging superpower, which declared cyberwar on South Korea two years ago, and plans to follow it with a land campaign in 2014 using its proxy state, North Korea.

After the unprovoked attack on Yeonpyeong Island last year, China was urged to return to the negotiating table, but while no more Chinese weapons have hit South Korean territory since then, experts say China has merely switched its efforts back to an online war designed to destabilize Korea's economy and infrastructure.

Historically, physical attacks on South Korea have been made from the semi-autonomous North Korea province of Greater China, which some say has given Beijing an element of deniability in planning them. Similarly, even though independent security researchers have traced recent online attacks against South Korea to Chinese military establishments, Beijing has angrily denied this, instead claiming the hacking may be the work of aliens.

Seoul's tradition response to military attacks is to promise to deal sternly with any future provocations, while paying tribute to the attacker in the form of food aid and economic development such as the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which provides Pyongyang with the foreign currency it needs to buy more weapons. But a plan to do the same in the online world failed when Beijing's hackers refused to accept a large donation of World of Warcraft items including armor and swords which were thought to be approximately the same value as previous payments of tribute to Pyongyang.

Now government ministers in Seoul are proposing to rethink the whole issue of Korea's online protection, with an innovative plan which calls for the removal of all forms of security on computers and servers across the country. Cybersecurity and Online Culture Minister, 72 year-old Kim, said that "the plan is admittedly radical, but if we accept the reality that China has full access to all our computers anyway, and we are not able to defend ourselves, it is better to remove all the layers of ineffective security we've built, because it won't make any difference to China's attacks against us, but it will make the lives of our citizens easier."

Transferring money from one account to another online typically takes the average South Korean 30 minutes, accounting for the need to use cryptographic security keys, passwords, pin number devices, and proprietary Korean-made anti-virus and anti-keylogging software at each stage of the process. Many South Koreans under 40 treat it as a game, although most say playing World of Warcraft is easier. Statistics show that most South Koreans over 40 usually fail to succeed in transferring money, or simply end up transferring it to the wrong bank by mistake. Controversially, a financial analyst last year claimed that many banks profits at any given time were approximately proportional to the number of people over 40 attempting to bank online.

Minister Kim says that the removal of Korea's ineffective online security systems may incur taking some additional losses to China, but this will be more than offset by the considerable boost to GDP - which will come from not having Korean people spending an estimated three weeks of their lives every year just trying to log on to their online account, and thinking up passwords longer than six characters which is very hard in the Korean language. "Personally, I would prefer it if China would end its war against us, but our attempts to open up an online dialog with Beijing have failed." the Minister said, although he accepted it may be a technical issue.

But a Government Minister in Beijing attempted to assure the international community that China's campaign of Internet attacks on South Korea are "peaceful in nature. However, the Korean government must understand that China is a rapidly growing country and it needs room to expand in both the physical and online world."

Some foreign Internet security researchers have called on the Korean government to replace its reliance on Chinese-made copies of the Windows operating system, and technologies such as ActiveX that even Microsoft no longer supports, but Minister Kim says he is confused by this advice. "I am fairly sure computers do not work without Windows" he explained.

In the wake of the attack and personal data theft, the 35 million victims of China's latest attack, who are easily identifiable due to South Korea's 'Real Name' system - which requires everyone to use their real names online rather than a nickname or alias - are being advised to change their passwords and real names to minimize the damage.

Related Links
SK Communications says 35 mln users' info hacked
Hackers attack South Korean sites; up to 35 mln users affected
Korea's Real Name System
China Urged to Return To Negotiating Table After Attack
Fearing Arrest, Chinese Foreign Minister Cancels South Korea Trip
Hackers in China swiped sensitive data from gov’t
Gmail hacking targeted Korean gov’t officials
Chinese hackers leaked classified gov't document: lawmaker
China stole South Korean secrets on drone: lawmaker
South Korea government websites targeted in cyber attack
Sea of Japan to Be Renamed Greater China Sea
N.K.’s cyber warfare unit in spotlight after attack on Nonghyup
Number of S. Koreans at Kaesong rebounds

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